Review: S.C. Gamecocks vs Florida Gators, 11/15/14, 12:00pm
Final Score: Gamecocks 23 – Gators 20 (OT), Attendance: 85,088
Weather: Warm and clear, 68; Ticket Price: $30 Seat Geek; Parking/shuttle: $10
“Special Stadium, not so special team(s)” by Tree
Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium is where the Gators call home. Or, as it is more commonly known, The Swamp. It is a big stadium, seating 88,548 officially with attendance often exceeding 90,000 fans. Honestly, it didn’t feel that big when we got inside thanks to original construction putting the field about 30 rows below the level of the surrounding land. It puts you close to the field and makes the joint rock. The stadium is well done in terms of aesthetics, lots of orange and blue, with supportive large messages in each corner, a ring of honor, etc. The west side of the stadium is in the shade, which is where we were sitting. Technically, it was corner of the end zone, but not too low. We were well shaded and surrounded by very friendly Florida fans. The video scoreboards were some of the best I have seen, with stats galore. I don’t remember anything memorable about the concessions or the restrooms.
The video intro of real alligators in a swamp prior to the team entering the stadium was pretty good as far as those things go. It was unique to the school and mascot, and not some generic short of Hollywood movies scenes clipped together. Florida has the standard dueling cheer, “Orange” and “Blue” alternating from each side of the stadium. I thought the band was pretty good, but they did a Back to the Future bit. It was the second or third time I had seen it that year, so that was a bit tired. It still surprises me to see big time college bands putting on the same or very similar routines.
I had done minimal preparation for the drive to Gainesville, but I did know that there was $10 parking with a shuttle to the game. I was not planning to tailgate since I had flown in from Tampa and was crashing at my Dad’s in Fort Myers. Tailgating is available, basically first come; first serve in and around the campus. Often times it is on the private lawns surrounding the campus. We managed to find the shuttle parking lot despite a couple of failed inquiries with the locals. While the shuttle was easy enough to use, it made connecting with my ticket contact difficult. I was attempting to buy the tickets from a student I found on Craig’s List and he wanted me to meet him at his frat house. The tailgating at Gainesville is just about anywhere you can find it and we could view the action from the bus as we rolled toward the stadium. We were running a little late and I was going to have to backtrack to find this guy to get the tickets. I could tell he was getting anxious and inebriated at the same time, which wasn’t doing much for my confidence. I was texting him to keep him up to date and committed to the sale. However as we approached the stadium, he stopped answering my texts and phone calls. It was clear the boozy frat boy had left me and my dad in the lurch.
We were in a tough spot, it was about 20 minutes before game time and we were right in front of the stadium and scalpers were non-existent. So, in desperation I turned to the internet knowing that I was dangerously close to their shut down time. A quick scan of Seat Geek found me tickets that put me all in at $30 a piece which was $20 cheaper than what the frat boy wanted. Cheers to that! With the tickets downloaded on my phone, my dad and I sauntered into the stadium with five minutes to spare.
Both teams were having bad years and were trying to stay above 500. Additionally, both the coaches might have been in their last season. South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier because the old ball coach was just plain old and Florida’s Will Muschamp due to the fact that he had lost more than he won the last couple of seasons. (Editor’s note: it was the last season for both coaches – Spurrier retired and Muschamp was fired.) So while the teams were mediocre, at least they were well matched.
South Carolina drove the opening kick-off right down the field and scored and I thought the Gators might be in trouble. However, as memory serves me, Florida was better team for the majority of the game. With 3:31 left in the fourth quarter, they set up to kick a field goal which would have given them a game clinching ten point lead. The Gamecocks rose, literally, to the occasion and blocked the field goal. The Gator defense answered with a defensive stand stopping South Carolina at the Florida 41 on 4th and 10. The Gators had a pretty good day running the ball so I guess I can kind of understand Muschamp going with conventional wisdom and trying to run off as much time off the clock as possible. The old ball Coach saw that coming the whole way and the Gamecocks had no problem stuffing the run. Having just had a field goal blocked, I would assume it was safe to say that the Gator special teams coach had told the players to be ready for the punt block. Unfortunately, the Gators could not execute and SC blocked the punt. The Gamecocks then drove down and scored the tying touchdown with twelve seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Florida received the ball first but had to settle for a field goal. This only fired up SC more and they promptly drove down the short 25 yards to score a touchdown and end the game. The stadium went silent except for the quiet muttering for Muschamp’s head. My Dad and I were equally shocked at how Florida had managed to throw this game away. The entire Gamecock team should have been arrested for grand larceny given how egregious the theft of this game was. Alas, there was nothing else to do but to shuffle out of the stadium, our heads down in support of the Gator faithful.
It had looked that the Gators were going to win and that my Dad and I would be able to celebrate some in Gainesville. Alas it was not to be and we headed out of town. I searched google maps to find a sports bar to catch the rest of the afternoon games and grab a bite to eat. We ended up at a Tilted Kilt. It was Pops first time, and I think he enjoyed it more than me. That’s probably because he was watching the waitresses while I was watching Northwestern lose in overtime to Notre Dame. Truly, with age comes wisdom.
As for the “Swamp”, it is obvious that such an iconic stadium has to be on any serious fan’s list. We had a good time when the team was only average. With a good to great team, I could see where the environment gets elevated to sublime.